Ten-pin bowling – what could possible go wrong? We have been many times before and DS1 has always had a great time. So, what better way to celebrate the start of half-term than a game of bowling with his mate Henry, Henry’s little sister Bridget and their mum Polly.

Bowling over, the kids would be dispatched to the arcade area with a few pound coins in their pockets, while Polly and I enjoyed a well-earned beer, basking in the glory of a successful evening out.

Well that was the theory anyway.

As we queued up for our bowling shoes, Bridget grabbed the sheet to write our names on, so that the nice man behind the counter could set our game up.

Naturally, being in control of the pen, she put herself first… And so the problems began.

DS1 was apoplectic. “I’m going first!” he ranted. “She can’t put herself first.”
“It doesn’t matter who goes first, we all get the same number of goes,” I said. “You haven’t always gone first when we’ve been before.”
“Yes, I have.”
“You haven’t. But, anyway, it should be ladies first.”
“I have to be first.”
“No, you don’t.”
“I’m not playing!” he spat, and promptly staged a sit-down protest – refusing to put his bowling shoes on.

I took him aside and read him the riot act. (Why do you read people the riot act? I didn’t have a script – I was just shooting from the hip. No, I wasn’t doing that either – I was verbally making it up as I went along and failing miserably.)

We adjourned to the bowling alley. DS1 begrudgingly followed, but refused to take any part in proceedings.

As his name came up for his go, I tried a futile: “It’s your go – you’re first now.” But he wasn’t buying that.

He sat away from us, sulking. Every time I tried to talk to him, he seethed about how he should be first. I dispatched Henry to talk sense into him, but there was nothing doing.

We took it in turns to have DS1’s go, much to his disgust.

“Well, you have your go then,” I suggested, but to no avail.

He then even had the cheek to complain when we didn’t knock all the pins down when we were taking his go.

“Do it yourself then,” I raged.

Nose, spite your face and cutting off sprang to mind.

By round six, he’d clearly had enough of our efforts and relented, finally joining in (albeit still reluctantly)… And not before we had a crisp incident.

Two pints of lager and three packets of crisps, please

Polly had bought the kids some crisps to share. The potato snacks consumed, DS1 spotted a Pringle dispenser and asked me if I’d buy some – one pot each.

I saw this as a way to reintegrate him into the group. Unfortunately, I only had one pound coin on me. I handed it over, advised him to get one pot for them to share and that when I’d got some change he could buy some more, if they were still hungry.

This did not compute. “You need to get three.”
“No, you can share one and when I have some change you can have some more.”

He was fuming. “I hate you. You’re ruining my life.”

A volley of punches and kicks were aimed in my direction, as he screamed (at a low level so as not to draw attention to himself) at me about how selfish I was.

As I batted away the hits and tried to get my shins out of the way of the kicks, I found my tolerance receding and in a fit of pique hauled him outside for a dressing down.

I’m not sure how, but I managed to get him to return to the bowling lane action and the game was duly completed (I think he’d just run out of steam). Although, Pringles and the fact that he came last because we mucked up his goes got mentioned a couple of times.

The kids then happily skipped off to the arcade, as if nothing had happened.

That beer had never been more needed.

Vacuum packed

Thinking about it, I wondered if the previous evening’s shenanigans were pre-holiday anxiety.

We were off to Iceland the following day, and it was all hands on deck (excluding DS1 obviously, who steadfastly refused to take part in any packing – even when it came to what he wanted to take).

“What books do you want to take?” the wife patiently asked.

It was going to be one of those days.

The house being in a bit of a state, I fetched the vacuum cleaner. As this would mean noise, I explained to DS1 what I was doing.

As the vacuum sprung into life, he shouted: “Turn that off now!”
“I told you, I needed to hoover,” I said.
“You never told me,” he raged.
“I did, and if you stop interrupting me the quicker I can finish.”
“Turn that off now!” he screamed.
“I need to clean the house so we don’t come back from holiday to a mess.”
“I never wanted to go.”

Now, we were getting to the heart of the matter. It was holiday jitters.

But we had talked about the holiday, included him in the discussions about what we were going to do. And every time we’d asked him if he was worried about the trip, he’d said “no”. And every time we’d asked him if he wanted to talk through what we had planned, he replied, dismissively: “I know what we’re doing.”

He doesn’t help himself sometimes.

Anyway, back to vacuum-gate. “It doesn’t need hoovering,” he wailed.
“It does, the house is a mess.”
“It doesn’t. You are just doing it to annoy me!”

On the positive side, once I’d finished hoovering and the dust had settled (actually that should be the other way around – obviously there was no dust after I’d hoovered) he apologised. Not some convoluted made-up word designed to convey ‘sorry’, but the actual word ‘sorry’. Not only that, but it was completely unprompted.

Sitting hell

So, to Iceland. I won’t bore you with the details of how amazing it is, the spectacular waterfalls, spouting geysers, hot springs, walking inside a glacier, lava caves and volcanic caters…

In the main, DS1 enjoyed himself. But, naturally, there were one or two incidents to contend with… starting with the flight there.

Whenever we fly, we have our set seats – me in the aisle (so I can stretch my legs out and nip to the loo easily), the wife by the window (so she can fall asleep within 10 seconds of taking off and wake up just as we are landing) and the boy in the middle.

Only this time DS1 wanted the window seat. He flew into a fury when the wife stood her ground (or rather sat, seeing as she was by the window and therefore couldn’t stand up fully). Arms started to flail as he insisted that he was getting off the plane unless she moved.

We tried every distraction technique in the book as he tried to clamber over her. Even the seatbelt failed to restrain him. Eventually, the plane moving took his attention and, I guess, he reasoned he was no longer going to be able to disembark and he’d better strap himself in for safety reasons.

The seating dilemma continued as we sat down for dinner in our cottage somewhere in Iceland’s Golden Circle. As a matter of course, we always ask DS1 where he wants to sit whenever we go somewhere new for the purposes of eating. If he chooses the table and his seat, then he feels in control – and to be honest no one else cares where they sit. Dramas aplenty averted.

Only this time, Joanne had already plonked herself in the seat in the corner. (I should have mentioned we went with Joanne and her mum, in case you were wondering what she was doing there.)

This did not go down well with the child. Fortunately, Joanne is well versed in the ways of the DS1 and she moved seats as soon as she realised it was an issue.

Out to lunch

The first day’s sightseeing went without a hitch (well, nothing major anyway). Day two, however, got off to a tricky start. Having decided the day’s itinerary, we decided to pack our lunch into rucksacks so that we could eat it during a walk we had planned.

DS1 lost the plot. We had used his bag for some of the lunch things and he railed against me as I tried to take it to the car. I thought the issue was that we were using his bag, so I tried to explain that it didn’t matter whose bag we used and that we were using Joanne’s bag as well. But he was having none of it.

He refused to get in the car. “You can’t use it!” he seethed.

We agreed to disagree (well, I did anyway – there was no way he was agreeing). Somehow we got him in the car and strapped ourselves in for a bumpy ride.

His good humour continued to desert him as we ventured to a frozen waterfall. He refused to look at it. Then a fall on the ice caused further woe, as he repeatedly tried to go back to the car so that we could go home.

By this stage it was already lunchtime, so we resigned ourselves to eating it at a picnic table next to the car park. DS1 eventually gracing us with his presence as hunger got the better of his principles.

Needless to say everything we went to see that day was boring and pointless.

We did, however, discover the reason behind his consternation. It was not that we were using his bag, it was the fact that when he saw us packing food into bags it meant that lunchtime was going to be different to yesterday.

The previous day we had just thrown some food into the boot and at the appointed time pulled up by a wooden church, where there was plenty of slopage for the kids to slide down, and ate it there.

The fact that, today, we were going to take our sandwiches on a walk meant things were going to be different – and he couldn’t cope with that. Never mind the fact that we’d had no idea where we were going to have lunch the day before, but, I guess, we’d unknowingly set a precedent that every lunch stop would be next to a church and a snow-covered hill.

Ice scream

Our walk inside a glacier was one of those out-of-this-world experiences, and DS1 drank it in – literally. I mention this excursion for no other reason than it was bizarre to watch your son experience this phenomenon through the sense of taste.

At any given opportunity I found him licking the ice. I don’t mean a cursory investigation with his tongue – from certain angles he looked like he was French kissing the walls.

His inflexibility rose to the fore again near the end of our week. The weather had turned inclement and we had a couple of options on the table for the following two days. DS1 opted for a volcanic museum, some two-plus hours away, rather than the much nearer waterfall and crater combo, despite the fact we’d had a long car journey the preceding day. Even though Joanne – and indeed the rest of us – favoured the other option, there was no changing his mind.

A fraught journey ensued, and when phone downtime was instigated he went mental – hitting and kicking me when I confiscated his mobile after he refused to hand the device over. He even booted the wife in the head with as much force as he could muster. While this was bad enough, the fact that she was driving made it positively dangerous.

A timeout was called. A time for the phones to be returned was agreed and, although not out of the woods yet, we were able to at least continue the journey without further incident.

Three hours after we set off we arrived, to find a note on the museum door saying they were closed. You can imagine what thoughts were going through our heads, but DS1 didn’t appear to care. Apart from surmising why they were closed, the fact they were didn’t bother him. All that had mattered to him was that we had stuck to the itinerary. We had gone to the volcano museum. Tick that box. At no point had we said we would actually go in it.

To salvage something from the day we decided to stop off at the crater I alluded to earlier. DS1 refused to get out of the car, though. We were not going to the crater today and that was final. And there he remained while the rest of us took it in turns to visit this natural wonder.

“We’re not supposed to go to it today,” he told me. And that was that.

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